More Mateo’s Musings: Memory

Musicians need to memorize lots of repertoire.  I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t cut it to play from sheet music, past a point.  And flamenco guitarists usually don’t have sheet music to start with.  Flamenco, for the most part, continues to be an oral tradition, passed on from guitarist to guitarist.  I sometimes jot down a falseta in my own musical shorthand (particularly in Spain) so as to be able to pick up new material really quickly—but, then, I memorize it as soon as I get home.  To really express the music, the sentido, the soniquete:  you just have to have it memorized.  This also allows you to be sensitive to the singer, the dancer(s), the other musicians.  Enough said.  Here are a few tricks to memorization I’d like to share:

1.  Listen to a lot of music.  Listening allows us to memorize much more easily.  It helps us figure out just what is going on and where the music is going.  Those beautiful little “revelations” occur most often when we are just listening.

2.  Use logic to fix the musical ideas in your head and in your fingers.  It can be your own weird logic, in fact, the weirder the better.  When I explain my own “inner logic”  to someone I always get some strange looks.  “Mateo, that makes NO sense at all!”

3.  Use mnemonic devices to assist the memory.  The stupider, sillier, even more vulgar the better.  Less easy to forget.  Often best to keep these to yourself….

4.  Look for shapes that unfold on the neck of the guitar.  Much music comes out of the physicality of actually playing the instrument.  Descending runs, positional changes, recurring fingering shapes, also repetitive right-hand techniques.

5.  Visualize the music you’re memorizing when you’re away from the instrument.  Just before falling asleep or just when you awaken.  An effective way to drive yourself completely out of your mind, as an added benefit.

Please share your ideas on memorization.  We all need to improve at this.